Picking up on the theme of nostalgia from the previous post, I visited a few local schools and colleges this week and a student asked me which book had had the most impact on me when I was a child. That is such a long time ago! Does anyone read Just William these days? Treasure Island, Heidi, Little Women... There are so many new and exciting contemporary authors writing for the youth market nowadays: Anthony Horowitz, Michael Morpurgo, Phillip Pullman, to name just a few. It makes it all the more dismal that so few children are reading, and even fewer teenagers. There are many other, easier, opportunities to fill their time.
In a different context, I had another 'trip down memory lane' recently. On one of my school visits this week I tried to impress on my young audience how ground breaking Dr Who was when it was first broadcast in the 1960s. From Andy Pandy to daleks was a qualitative leap for an unsophisticated viewing audience. Dr Who was the first television programme to employ special effects and it succeeded in terrifying a generation.
I was intially entertained when a dalek asked me to sign a copy of CUT SHORT the other week. Of course I agreed. What author will refuse a sale? The top (lid?) of the dalek duly lifted up and . . . a hand emerged . . . a human hand! . . . proffering money. Of course I knew it was just a plastic shell in dalek shape concealing a man inside, but I couldn't bring myself to put my own hand inside the dalek. Instead, I handed the change to someone else to deliver to the man-inside-the-plastic-dalek.
How ridiculous! But our early childhood fears run deep. The child we once were lurks inside us all, (I won't say like the man concealed inside the dalek - it's too obvious!)
When I'm writing crime novels, I play with my readers' fears . . . a character wakes at night, alone in the house, and hears a door closing . . . a woman walking along a dark deserted street hears footsteps . . .
I knowingly draw on my own irrational terrors in my writing - but holding back from touching a plastic dalek - that was a surprise even to a scaredycat like me! Surely at the ripe old age of mumble (OK, I was watching daleks in 1964) I should have outgrown my fear of a plastic inverted bucket waving a sink plunger? Especially one who had just bought a copy of my book! Of course, without my irrational fears, my writing would be less scarey, but I wonder if anyone has been caught out by a more ridiculous irrational childhood fear , or do I win the wimpy prize for this one?